Delays in cancer treatment due to ongoing pandemic

Newly published figures shed light on the impact of the ongoing covid pandemic on those undergoing treatment for cancer. The figures released by Public Health England show that during the months from April to July, 11,000 fewer people with cancer in England started chemotherapy for the first time when compared to the same period in 2019. The figures raise concern over the number of cancer compensation claims that may arise as a result.

A further breakdown of the figures shows that the greatest reduction in treatment was experienced by the older age groups, with those between 70 and 79 years suffering from a 24 percent decrease in starting treatment and those over 80 starting first treatment decreased by 27 percent.

Additionally, the type of treatment individuals were receiving for cancer changed during this period. Chemotherapy based treatments dropped by 19 percent in May. Instead, those receiving treatment orally increased to 30 percent. This suggests that individuals were following a different treatment path, perhaps to minimise the amount of time required in hospital. However, this can have wide reaching consequences should the alternative treatment not be as effective. Whilst it is unknown from the figures alone how many people had less effective treatment, it is likely that they may be eligible to pursue cancer claims should they have suffered adversely as a result. The change in treatment type also follows advice from the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) to oncologists to consider warning cancer patients to stay away from hospitals. Whilst this is understandable due to the increased vulnerability of those with compromised immune systems, it meant that many treatments may have been postponed as a result, potentially with devastating consequences.

These results follow our previous article documenting the impact that the ongoing pandemic has had on the treatment of cancer with more people waiting in excess of 100 days and highlighting the potential for treatment delay claims as a result. However, it is not just those with cancer who have been directly impacted by the ongoing pandemic, as figures highlighted by The Telegraph illustrate the full extent of the consequences on NHS treatments and services during 2020:

Treatment delays in the NHS during 2020

  • 3 million people in the UK missed cancer screenings as a result of coronavirus
  • 2 million patients waited more than 18 weeks for routine hospital treatment
  • 1 in 10 mental health patients has been waiting six months for help
  • 50 per cent drop in heart attack A&E attendances
  • 38 per cent drop in emergency heart surgery in London in the second half of March, due to worried patients
  • 35 per cent of carers provided more care as a result of local services reducing or closing.

It is hoped that as we move into 2021 and the vaccination programme picks up speed, that the impact of the pandemic is minimised. However, it is likely that the services and treatment programmes will take a number of months, if not years to recover and that many individuals and their families will have been affected as a result.

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